I have an old GPS unit in my car – the kind that needs to have maps downloaded, which I haven’t done for about five years. Mostly it’s accurate, but on one memorable occasion it wanted me to drive across what is now a pedestrian foot bridge. The voice was getting a little bit testy as I tried to find a way around it.
On the other hand, I often look at the traffic reports before I travel to an unfamiliar location. They give me immediate feedback about which routes are preferable given current conditions. I seem to have encountered more than the usual amount of road construction this summer and it has been very useful.
As leaders, one of our important roles is to help project teams understand the traffic conditions. While the team is focused on the vision, goals, and tasks related to a particular change effort, leaders and sponsors need to be aware of the bigger picture. This means we need to understand what else is going on.
For example, if your campus is anticipating an accreditation visit, searching to fill two senior leadership vacancies, and implementing a technology upgrade, now might not be the time to purchase a different HR information system (HRIS). The timing might have looked good on the HR master plan, but key staff are clearly already involved in other projects. It’s probably wise to detour that project.
As leaders, we want to be sure are maps are up to date and accurate. We also want to check the current conditions and know where the road blocks might appear. No matter how often the GPS unit told me to take the foot bridge, it was not going to happen. Sending a project team on that route with that map would be setting them up for failure. As a leader, I need to steer them in the best direction by knowing how things have changed and what else is going on in the environment.
–Dee Anne Bonebright